Three years ago, Vonda received a call in the middle of the night from someone who told her that she either had to take custody of her three young nieces - Betty, a 4 year old and Carine and Carmen a set of 3 year old twins - or they would be split up in the foster care system.
Vonda was given emergency custody of the girls, and at that moment she realized the extreme neglect these girls had endured. Carine had such severe bottle rot that she had to have the fragments of teeth that remained pulled. Vonda took the girls to the dentist for remaining dental work and pediatrician to get them caught up on immunizations but all three girls needed further medical care and early childhood mental health services.
Vonda said, “Everything came to me at once and I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t have enough blankets or pillows or clothes when these girls were brought to me. Many services couldn’t help me with the costs because ‘I chose to take the girls in.’ What would you do? There was no choice. I didn’t know how I would do this but how could I let them go into foster care? I knew I had to be there for them no matter what it cost me.”
In April of 2016 Vonda met Jenn Keathley, the director of OberlinKids at a community event. Vonda explained her situation to Jenn and was interested in any services available because the girls were all behind developmentally. Through OberlinKids, Jenn was able to connect Vonda to a variety of services, including a formal "ages and stages" evaluation, and Jenn helped the girls enroll in Oberlin Early Childhood Center for full day preschool.
Here, the girls were able to make friends, catch up on their social/emotional skills, and most especially, play. OECC was able to set Vonda up with a payment plan, and scholarships from the Child Care Resource Center provided emergency funding to help with the monthly costs.
The Schools confirmed Carine’s needs and sadly, she scored the lowest on her kindergarten screening of any child to the principal’s knowledge. Vonda struggled to decide what to do but ultimately moved Carmen to kindergarten while retaining Carine, her twin sister, in special education preschool. They had a successful year and made progress in their academic goals.
Since their meeting Jenn has been able to help Vonda access local programming for clothing, school supplies and Christmas presents for the girls. Vonda has shopped at the local food pantry at Oberlin Community Services and been able to receive some financial assistance to help her feel a little more stable and on her feet.
Betty and Carmen are currently in third grade and Carine in second grade. After over two years of having emergency custody Vonda was awarded full, permanent custody of the girls. They are all thriving and always have smiles on their faces and shower Jenn with hugs every time they see each other around Oberlin.
OberlinKids is strengthening families, connecting communities and supporting children not only for today but for tomorrow's generations through their supportive services to ensure parents provide their children with the best start possible.